For most Americans, diet is the single most predictive risk factor for developing heart disease. Eating the calorie-rich, high sodium and processed standard American diet causes plaques to form in blood vessels. These plaques can lead to heart disease and early death.[i] The standard American diet also promotes high blood pressure, high serum cholesterol and inflammation. These factors increase the risk of heart disease.
The plaques that form on the artery walls (atherosclerosis) can restrict blood flow, rupture, and cause chest pain (angina). Atherosclerosis can also cause heart attacks and strokes.
One out of every six deaths in the United States is due to coronary heart disease.
A major contributor to the poor diet typical of most Americans is saturated fat and trans fat.[ii] Trans fats are found in animal-based foods such as beef, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. You can also find saturated fat in coconut products and palm oil. Studies show that choosing fish and poultry over beef and pork makes no significant changes in total cholesterol.[iii] It is better to focus on eating fiber-rich plant foods[iv] which do not have saturated fats or trans fats. Fiber-rich plant foods also contain fiber, which can lower total cholesterol.[v] Choosing a plant-based diet is the best thing you can do for your heart.[vi]
Four things you can do today.
Your lifestyle choices affect your risk of heart disease. Change your lifestyle, change your life.[vii] Studies show that a plant-based diet gives the best chances for protection against heart disease and survival from heart disease.[viii]
- Eat more fiber-rich plant foods.
At every meal, eat high-fiber plant foods such as beans, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and 1–2 servings of nuts and seeds per day.[ix] This will provide fiber, nutrients, and plant protein for optimal heart health.
- Use the 2—2—2 Method.
If you feel you cannot remove animal proteins, try limiting fish or seafood to 2 times a week, poultry to 2 times a month, and beef or pork to 2 times a year.[x] Consider these foods treats instead of a staple in the diet. For optimal heart health, eliminate them completely.
- Reduce eggs and dairy.
The saturated fat in eggs and dairy makes them high-risk for heart failure. For optimal health remove them completely. If you can’t remove them completely, limit eggs to 2 times a week and dairy to 2 times a month (including low-fat dairy products).
- Limit your salt intake.
The highest food sources of sodium are chicken, cheese, processed meats, bread, frozen dinners, fast food, and canned soup. Limit your intake of these foods and replace them with high-fiber plant foods.
For a healthier heart, eat more plant-based fiber.
Buy canned, dried, frozen, or fresh beans. Use whatever is easiest. Look for low-sodium or no-salt-added canned beans or buy regular beans and rinse with water. Rinsing the bean juice can also reduce symptoms of gas and indigestion.
Add fresh, frozen, or canned (low sodium) vegetables to meals several times a day. Eat vegetables raw, steamed, baked, grilled, or boiled.
Fresh, frozen, or dried (unsweetened) fruits of any kind.
- Whole grains and starchy vegetables
Any type of potatoes, yams, squash, corn, or whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, etc. For bread products, try “Food for Life” brand, which makes Ezekiel 4:9 bread products made with sprouted whole grains and beans instead of flour.
- Nuts and Seeds
Enjoy 1–2 serving a day of salt-free walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, natural nut butter, flax or chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
Any cooked, whole-grain cereal or muesli, fruit, seeds or nuts.
- Oatmeal with berries, banana or raisins, and nuts or seeds
- “Food for Life” Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted bread with nut butter and fruit (berries recommended)
Any beans, vegetables, starchy vegetables or whole grains, and fruit.
- Dark, leafy, green salad, baked potatoes, beans, steamed vegetables, and fruit for dessert
- Brown rice and steamed vegetables with grilled tofu, edamame beans, or lentil soup
Vegetable soup, salads, wraps, sandwiches, potatoes, grain and bean bowls, fruit, etc.
- Brown rice, black beans, corn, low-sodium salsa, guacamole, and a dark leafy green salad
- Vegetable soup, Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted bread, and dark leafy green salad
Fruits, vegetables and hummus, beans, leftovers, nuts or fruit trail mix, avocado or peanut butter toast, small bean burrito, unsweetened apple sauce, small bowl of oatmeal, etc.
[i] Micha, R., G. Michas, and D. Mozaffarian, Unprocessed Red and Processed Meats and Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Type 2 Diabetes – An Updated Review of the Evidence. Current Atherosclerosis Reports, 2012. 14(6): p. 515-524.
[ii] Horowitz, J.F., et al., Changes in markers for cardio-metabolic disease risk after only 1-2 weeks of a high saturated fat diet in overweight adults. PLOS ONE, 2018. 13(6): p. e0198372.
[iii] A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that compare the lipid effects of beef versus poultry and/or fish consumption
Maki, Kevin C. et al. Journal of Clinical Lipidology, Volume 6, Issue 4 , 352 – 361
[iv] Tharrey, M., et al., Patterns of plant and animal protein intake are strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality: the Adventist Health Study-2 cohort. Int J Epidemiol, 2018. 47(5): p. 1603-1612.
[v] The effect of combining plant sterols, soy protein, viscous fibers, and almonds in treating hypercholesterolemia
Jenkins, David J.A et al. Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental, Volume 52, Issue 11 , 1478 – 1483
[vi] Key, T.J., et al., Mortality in vegetarians and non-vegetarians: a collaborative analysis of 8300 deaths among 76,000 men and women in five prospective studies. Public health nutrition, 1998. 1(1): p. 33-41.
[vii] Chiuve, S.E., et al., Healthy lifestyle factors in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease among men: benefits among users and nonusers of lipid-lowering and antihypertensive medications. Circulation, 2006. 114(2): p. 160-167.
[viii] Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology)
Esselstyn, Caldwell B, American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 84 , Issue 3 , 339 – 341
[ix] Tuso, P.J., et al., Nutritional update for physicians: plant-based diets. The Permanente Journal, 2013. 17(2): p. 61.
[x] Dr. Wayne Dysinger, www.lifestylemedicinesolutions.com